From cookie sales to college students

By Roseline Collins - Staff Reporter

Highline's new director of development said she is a proud former Girl Scouts project manager and passionate about bringing some much-needed dough to the school. 

Sharon Cupp, the college's new chief fundraiser, said she is motivated to do her job because of who the students are and what they want to become.  

Cupp joined Highline in January after 30 years with the Girl Scouts.

She pursued an associate of arts degree in business from Santa Rosa Junior College and transferred to Sonoma State University where she graduated with a bachelor's in marketing. 

Cupp said much of her job is to be fully organized with the other executives in order to reach and have sustainable sponsors who will become lifelong partners in supporting Highline. 

Her team does what she called a "wealth analysis" on donors in order to investigate and create a relationship with them in hopes of future contributions. 

"[We] do our groundwork [and we] do our research so that we are asking the right kind of people at the right time," Cupp said. 

 She said she plans on associating with other colleges to learn from them and to seek partnership rather than rivalry in the struggle to raise funds for higher education. 

"I don't think of South Seattle as a competitor or Green River, even though they neighbor us. It's more of 'We're all in this together'," she said. 

Cupp said she and her team had raised millions of dollars for the Girl Scouts. 

Through her time at Girl Scouts, she was a part of an $8 million capital campaign, and a $2 million peer-development project. 

She said that 60 percent of funds came from cookie sales and her key role was assisting the girls and their families in making the quest for those funds successful.  

Cupp said she does not deserve all the credit for her work because she was able to be successful through teamwork and alliance. 

"Everything was done in teams, so it just isn't one person. Because more people makes for a better experience," she said. 

Cupp decided to step down from her position as her functions in the Girl Scouts were often changing. 

She said she plans to use her human relation skills to build strong relationships with others along with her skills, talents and discoveries from traveling to fulfill her position at Highline.  

Cupp said she and her leadership team have several events planned out throughout the year to raise money for the school. 

Though more external, Highline's annual Gala is a signature event where faculty, staff, and executive leaders host their friends and colleagues to come up to a dressy affair, she said. 

About 200 people come to this fancy dinner at Cedarbrook Lodge in SeaTac. There, an auctioneer will call for bids on up to 25 auction items. 

Cupp said people may actually spend more than the product's market value because of their willingness to give to the school. 

Many of the individuals who attend are those with a commitment to the college and who are philanthropic and have the ability to give, Cupp said. 

Success of the event depends on inviting the right kind of people who are eager to give. Though anyone is welcome, her team aims to reach those who are charitable, she said. 

"It isn't just about being there and being in a fancy place, it's about supporting the college," Cupp said. 

All of the money that comes from the gala is disbursed to fund scholarships for students, she said.  

"Last year we funded over $200,000 of scholarships for students," she said. 

The need for money is great especially in students' first year. They want to make sure that students have the money they need to be successful and continue to their second year, she said. 

The Spring Gala will be on April 29 in celebration of Highline's 55th anniversary. 

Ticket prices are $150 per person. 

Other fundraising events planned include the golf tournament by the Athletic Department in June, a fundraising breakfast in the fall, and helping with the alumni association, said Cupp. 

She said she is excited about working at Highline and is optimistic to what will happen next.

"I am getting my feet wet to what exists and what will become is a work in progress," she said. 

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